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NFU hails seed-saving legislation

(Friday, June 25, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- From a National Farmers Union news release: National Farmers Union praised a bill introduced today by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, to allow farmers the right to save and replant patented seed.

"Traditionally, farmers have kept a portion of their seed to replant the next year. Today, with the ability to patent life forms, farmers have lost control of their seedstock and are forced to buy new seed year after year, often from a single corporation," said NFU President Dave Frederickson. "Representative Kaptur's legislation offers a common-sense resolution to this difficult situation."

Kaptur's Seed Availability and Competition Act of 2004 would decriminalize the act of saving patented seed as long as a producer reports the quantity and type of seed retained and pays a technology fee to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The secretary of agriculture will then compensate the appropriate patent holders.

In addition, the proposed legislation would assess tariffs on imported products from countries that do not levy comparable technology fees. Frederickson said this provision would resolve a competitive disadvantage U.S. farmers have with farmers from countries where technology fees are not applied.

"This legislation affects a large percentage of producers in the United States," Frederickson explained. For example, 81 percent of all soybeans planted in the U.S. are genetically modified."

Frederickson said this legislation was driven by grassroots efforts in several states. Three years ago, Missouri State Rep. Wes Shoemyer began introducing seed-saving legislation with the support of Missouri Farmers Union. He introduced House Bill 829 this year to address the issue.

"What Congresswoman Kaptur's legislation will do is interject competition into the seed-producing arena again," said Shoemyer. "This legislation would also help local businesses keep money in their community by cleaning the seed locally; the farmer saves the seed locally, so he spends more money in his local community instead of sending that money out of his community. This bill is very community friendly, very business friendly and certainly very family farmer friendly. I applaud the congresswoman for having the vision to file this legislation."

Ohio Farmers Union has championed state bills SB 252 and HB 513 by state Sen. Marc Dann and Rep. L. George Distel that would address the seed- saving issue at the state level. OFU President Joe Logan said, "Farmers are very appreciative of patented seeds because they simplify their agricultural operations. What they don't appreciate is that access to that seed comes only through a single source. What we are hoping to do with this legislation is to break that stranglehold that a single corporation has on the access to seedstock that farmers need so desperately."

Contact: Laura Johnston,